I have a unique opportunity to retire at age 55; maybe not that unique, but more of a rarity. I was fortunate to begin work for a recreation and parks department at a municipal government agency at age 26.
How can I retire at 55? In California, we (and our employers) pay into CalPERS, a public employee retirement system. To retire, the formula for eligibility is 2% at 55. With 30+ years in, this is the equivalent of retiring with 60% of my salary. I have 31 years in with PERS as I was able to purchase service credits from working part-time during college at PERS agencies. With 31 years, I am retiring with 62% of my salary.
Many government-run retirement systems are in danger of going bankrupt and many have pulled pensions from long time members. At work, our labor unions have already ratified new contracts limiting retirement plans to new employees. Members have reluctantly agreed to pay all of our percentages into our retirement. I personally believe it is the right thing to do under the circumstances. California is still crawling out from the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1920s. The northern California city I live in had the second WORST unemployment rate in the United States in 2012, because it is a government town.
The youngest Baby Boomers turned 50 this year (last born in 1964). There are 80 million of us. The impact on retirement systems will soon be felt and many Boomers are concerned that these pensions may be at risk within the next 10 years. Don’t get me started on Social Security. I won’t even get partial benefits until age 62.
As Boomers retire, the transfer of knowledge to younger (or newer) employees is critical. In an earlier post I said that a lot of workplace ideas and information may be lost if employers do not plan for retirements of older workers. Every day at work I see this in action. Our management team in my line is all under age 45. They don’t want to listen to us old goats waxing poetic about how things were “back in the day.” Changes are coming quickly and I am seeing programs and ideas that were successful under my supervision going by the wayside.
Does this bother me? Sure, a little. The stress of change has been taking its toll on me these last two years. It is exhausting to explain to someone 20 years your junior how certain things are done and why. I know without a doubt why older people retire and give up. It’s just too hard.
Nevertheless, I believe organizational change is a good thing. I have been a proponent of change for 30+ years. It keeps our work interesting. I respect our management staff and how they are going to navigate through changes brought on by retirement. But I am done fighting the good fight. I will look forward to seeing how some of the drastic changes being made when I leave will still manifest into continued, good public service.
More coming in Part Two on my blog Perspectives On…Work, Life & Leisure.